Opening up huge opportunities for third firing effects
with digital printing technologies

Third firing is a technique whereby the surface enhancement of ceramics is achieved with special decorative materials, usually iridescent substances or precious metals, re-fired at somewhat lower temperatures than the initial firing process.

Digital printing is a solution we have developed to apply vitrifiable inks to ceramics to complete the decorative process for tiles or floor tiles. This solution is easily integrated into finishing lines at the facilities of major producers or with smaller third-party suppliers.

A particularly interesting case is for application to large ceramic surfaces of decorative motifs that resemble the effects achieved by wallpaper, whereas in this case, the decorative layer is part and parcel of the ceramic substrate.

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Revalorize second and third-choice products

Second and third-choice ceramics are certainly not a money spinner for factories rolling out ceramic tiles. Third firing is actually an opportunity to retrieve value by overwriting the decorative effects with a solution that offers sufficient embellishment to requalify the product. Our industrial digital printers apply special inks directly onto a vitrified surface, obtaining an excellent colour gamut.

Generate more income by adding exclusive value

Two more significant benefits come from using a digital printer to obtain a third-firing effect and grasp new opportunities for generating income.

Firstly, you can decorate tiles up to 1600 x 3200 mm in size with special inks.

Moreover, producers of ceramic tiles can add value to tiles by implementing these special finishing effects which are achieved with an 800°C firing process, and thereby obtain a superior sales price.

The process enables production efficiency as well as moderate energy consumption compared to the value of your final product.

The key factor to ensure the best results

On one hand, the printing equipment has to be top quality, but that is not enough to guarantee the very best effects and durability.

The inks are a vital factor. Inks developed for use in conditions provided by our printers will lead to increased durability, resistance to physical or chemical abrasion and weathering in general, plus repeatability.

The technical characteristics of the inks are as important as the quality of the machine that applies them.

Customising large surfaces

Thanks to its ability to handle widths up to 1600 mm, our J-Print MP is an invincible solution for companies, large or small, wanting to customise large ceramic tiles with third-firing effects.

This printer features 8 colour stations of which 3 or more can be converted to print precious metals and other iridescent inks. With 5 application heads on each station, output reaches up to 80 sqm/h, delivering top performance and top-drawer results.

J-Print MP is also equipped with a high-precision cartesian axis, linear motors a patented system for recirculation.

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Products and Solutions

The search function is now available for complete production lines. All you need to do is select the material involved, the market sector or the finished product. Whichever search criteria is used, a corresponding solution for your spray coating line is obtained in just 3 steps. Search results will indicate the most suitable solution, based on the level of flexibility required, the productivity range and the overall footprint. Solutions are classified as small (S), medium (M) or large (L).

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Products and Solutions

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Frequently Asked Questions

Which substrates can I print on?

Many! Each requiring its own specific pre-treatment, curing level, finishing etc.
Examples: MDF and other wood derivatives – fibre cement – PVC – SPC – WPC – ABS – PS – Aluminium and other metals – glass – leather.

Can I decide exactly what design I want?

Yes! There are virtually no limits.
You may need to consider the following factors in some cases:

  1. Printing resolution will affect minimum printable detail.
  2. Specific surface characteristics of the substrate.
Can I print on raised panels as well as flat panels?

Yes, but the quality may not be quite as good.

Flat panels are perfect for inkjet technology because the substrate is always kept very close to the print heads.

You can also print on slightly raised panels if you follow a few basic rules:

  1. Ink droplets will not reach vertical or severely inclined surfaces.
  2. Print heads must be less than 7 mm from the surface to avoid blurred printing.

Strategies to overcome the above involve larger ink droplets, but result in grainier effects.

Our technical experts can evaluate such issues on a case by case basis.

Can I print on edges or profiles?

Yes, you can print on both.

Edges
We have developed a digital printer for edge foils handling thicknesses from 0.1 to 2 mm and a useful printing width of up to 500 mm (19.7”).

Profiles
Considering the issues answered in questions 1 and 3, direct digital printing on profiles is possible.

We have developed a digital printer for skirtings and other profile types. Preparation and finishing must be defined case by case.

What’s the largest size I can run through a digital printer?

Depending on the printer model in our range, we can ensure the following maximum useful widths:
Single-pass up to 1540 mm (60.6”).
Multi-pass up to 2500 mm (98.4”)

How do I measure the quality of the print and what will my customers expect?

We can only measure objective quality. Subjective quality is a question of taste.

Here are some objective factors:

  1. Resolution or dpi (dots per inch) is a measurable value. Our range of industrial digital printers work at resolutions of 400x400 dpi or 400x800 dpi (where 800 dpi is parallel to the direction pieces travel in single-pass printers)
  2. Colours are a measurable factor using a spectrophotometer, providing the area measured is large enough for the sensor. The naked eye evaluates colour more effectively, but it is subjective.
  3. Image sharpness will also depend on the base coat and printer set-up.
  4. Colour shades and contrast will be affected by the layers of top coats
Is digital print quality constant over time?

One key issue is consistent acceptable quality over time.
This can be achieved by implementing the following activities:

  1. Check hardware set-up daily: align the print heads, clean the nozzles.
  2. Check software set-up regularly: ensure nozzle compensation and shade uniformity across the conveyor.
  3. Ensure correct workflow and follow it strictly at all times: coating process control, colour profiling, image management, raster image processing (RIP).
  4. Define and perform Print Quality Assessment & Maintenance daily.
Can I print single pieces or must I print in batches?

Whereas multi-pass printers generally print single pieces, our single-pass printers also print in “batch one” mode.
To maintain excellent productivity, we have made it very quick to switch from one design/pattern to the next on our single-pass solutions.

Is 3D digital printing possible?

Firstly, this does not mean “rapid prototyping”. It means creating a superficial 3D effect, a texture.
Yes, it is possible.
Achieved digitally on single-pass and multi-pass printers, there are 3 methods we advise to obtain different characteristics, all of which create a 3D effect. Depending on the end usage of the finished product, we would recommend one of these methods.

What are the key benefits of industrial digital printing?
  1. Flexibility. It is simple to change from one design to the next as often as required.
  2. Unit cost is in no way connected to batch size.
  3. Quick response to fast-changing market demands and fashions.
  4. Very short lead time from the idea to the first sample.
  5. Ability to test countless variants, evaluate and pinpoint market trend instantly.
What are the disadvantages of industrial digital printing?
  1. Handling large volumes. This technique is not for mass production.
  2. Economies of scale. Unit cost does not drop in line with higher volumes.
  3. Learning curve. Many end-users are at the start of the learning curve and need to develop some skills and knowledge to exploit the technologies. We can support you.
Which applications are best suited to digital printing?
  • Flooring
  • Panel decoration
  • Door decoration
  • Edge-banding
  • Fibre cement decoration
  • Profiles
  • etc.

ceflaLab

We believe technological research and continuous innovation to be essential for the achievement of rewarding results. First and foremost, our goal is to be a consultant and partner.

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